Television has had some issues with romance. With its longer format, it makes sense that what generally ends up happening is that the canvas around a pair is expanded, or that their tension is sparsely spread out, hidden away in a larger set of characters. Netflix’s One Day uses the format to its advantage, while sometimes being pulled down by it.
Emma (Ambika Mod), and Dexter (Leo Woodall), first bump into each other the night following their graduation. Taken aback, and unsure of how to proceed with the clearly strong connection they have to each other, the night is spent in playful banter and concludes the next day with them promising to remain in touch with each other. The show’s 14 episodes return to the day of this promise (July 15) every successive year, as Emma and Dexter’s relationship deals with the pressures of adult life.
An adaptation of David Nicholls’ 2009 book, which was also adapted into a 2011 film starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess, One Day is faithful to its literary as regards the concept of a chapter per episode. As July 15 rolls around each year, we see how Emma and Dexter have grown, as individuals, and at times apart from each other. They meet as wide-eyed college graduates, and then later as cynical adults. There are obvious feelings that they harbour for each other, but these tend to be more obvious to the camera, as both Emma and Dexter remain hesitant to pursue anything risky.
One Day (English)
Cast: Leo Woodall, Ambika Mod, Eleanor Tomlinson, Amber Grappy, Jonny Weldon, and others
Runtime: 30 minutes
Storyline: Emma and Dexter meet each other at the end of their college lives, and promise to keep in touch. With each passing year, as they grow into adults, their bond is tested
While the show’s end goal is the impending romance between the two, it does dedicate a few episodes to exploring their lives away from each other, as individuals. Emma, who harboured dreams of becoming a writer and changing the world, finds herself a teacher, while no-plan Dexter lands a hosting gig which comes with a good helping of fame. These also end up being the episodes where One Day does some of its best work.
Though the show is good at the whole will-they won’t-they of it all, there are times when Emma and Dexter staring into each other’s eyes remains… just that. When they first see each other again after nearly three years, and we have seen their relationships with other people wax and wane, their characteristic stare tends to hold more weight. The audience is also aware of the big individual turmoils that they are eager to tell each other about. Unfortunately for the show, the writing does not seem to want to favour this kind of pacing, which is not entirely bad for the chemistry, but then also not entirely fulfilling.
While Ambika and Leo are strong performers against each other, Ambika especially shines in showing the small changes in Emma through the years. Again, a little more balanced screen time would have resulted in showcasing her performance better.
A temporally grand, but ultimately sweet affair, One Day, is a rather predictable show, but that doesn’t work against it when combined with its unique premise of an annual check-in with the leads. While at its strongest when showing individual growth, the show nonetheless hits most of the beats of a slow-burn romance.
One Day is currently streaming on Netflix